Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The chase for straighforwardness

Trying to get some honesty out of my closest colleague (who is Chinese) is sometimes like pulling out a tooth: slow and painful.

There I am, drafting a sell-friendly PR-like text to an event that we’re having, doing my best to make it sound interesting, cool and not-to-be-missed.

However, since I am not a naturally born PR person, I quickly get a gag-feeling when I read my own selling points. So I turn to my colleague:

-Do you think it’s too much? Too exaggerated?

-Eh…. No! Hihi.

-OK, good.


There it is. The laugh. The giggle. The sign that something is wrong –even though she’s telling me it isn’t.

-Why are you laughing, I ask, trying hard to put up my most stern face.

-I don’t know. Hihi. The invitation is a bit funny!


-Yes, haha!

-It’s not supposed to be funny! It’s supposed to sound tempting and cool, but not funny.


-Well, so do you think I should change something?

-Yeah, maybe you could change this part….

She points at the part that I was the most worried about from the beginning. Hello, hallelujah moment?! Imagine if she would have never told me and I would have sent this out?! D-d-d-disaster!

-Good, thanks. Now, is there something else?


-Please be honest with me!

-Hahaahahhaa, I think it’s OK.

-I don’t want it to be OK. I want it to be great!

-Hahahhaha, it’s OK!

I take a deep sigh and count to five.

-So why are you laughing?

-Hihihihih, what do you mean?

-Why are you laughing?

-Hahhaa, I don’t know…

-But you can’t just laugh at nothing. It has to be something. What in the invitation do you think is laughable?


-OK, so if YOU would have to send it out, under YOUR name. What would YOU change.

-I think it’s good. But… na, nothing.

-No, yes, YES, please, what?!

-Well… hihi, OK, maybe this part!

-Awesome… now let’s go through the rest...

Now, it’s not an easy or time efficient process, but I have to go through this every single time. Because my colleague is simply too polite to tell me, straight to my face, if she think something is wrong. Or, as she often puts it: “it isn’t wrong, but could be put differently.” Man, she’s such a natural-born-diplomat!

Sometimes I have nightmares where I dream of her saying:

-It’s fine!

Me trusting her.

And the invitation going out. Just like that.

Then I wake up, cold-sweating, and promise myself to never skip the slow but honest “what-do-you-really-think” process with her. It might be slow and painful, but it is, indeed, quite helpful. I work towards a Chinese market, and I’m not Chinese. So I believe I should always listen to natives when it comes to what they really like, take their points into consideration, and then draft something suitable. Sometimes I just wish she could be a bit more straightforward, and less “slow-and-painful-like-pulling-out-a-tooth-like.”


E said...

my words fail to describe how much i love this hilarious story...
just out of curiosity, can we see the text you wrote? lol

ordinary malaysian said...

A very interesting and funny post. Of course, no fun thing for you. Ah, Chinese people, why are we so "diplomatic"?! Can't we call a spade a spade? Why do we have to beat around the bush? Although I myself am Chinese, I am baffled too. A cultural thing? What cultural thing? Is it because Chinese people do not like to be hurt by others' comment that they themselves try not to comment on other people's work. So, they rather remain silent or hem and haw. But so true, the way you put across this Chinese quirk. Lol.

Jonna Wibelius said...

E- yeah, it is quite fun when you look at it from a distance. But frustrating when you're in the middle of things. And no... won't share my work stuff on this blog!

Ordinary malaysian -I don't think it's a bad thing. Swedish people are not the most straightforward people in the world either. We often say things to please others, even though we might not agree to 100%. I think it comes from wanting to avoid conflict -and in that sense I believe Sweden and China are quite similar.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I are teaching in Dalian and this describes a few of our Eastern staff members to a T. Thanks for the laugh.